Windows

10 cool registry edits and tweaks for Windows XP

Here are a few Windows XP registry edits you can use to make adjustments that go beyond simple Control Panel settings.

You're probably pretty familiar with the Registry Editor. For Windows XP, you just run the REGEDIT command at the Run prompt. Then, move down through the organization tree levels to the values and settings you want and double-click them to change them in a dialog box format. However, before you start making any changes, it's a good idea to make a backup copy of the registry by choosing File | Export. Here are a few handy hacks that will help you tailor the system to your liking.

This blog post previously appeared as an entry in our Microsoft Windows blog and is available as a PDF download.

1: Change categories in the Control Panel

Windows XP's Control Panel is broken down by category in the default Category view, but the group an item belongs to is not always obvious. If you disagree with Microsoft's assignments, you can switch them around. To assign a different category to an item, go to:

# HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\Extended Properties\{305CA226-D286-468e-B848-2B2E8E697B74} 2
Find the item you want to change and double-click it to bring up a dialog box. Change the item's DWORD value to your preference. Use Table A as a guide (shown with decimal numbers, which is the way you should enter them).

Table A

Category DWORD value to set
Other Control Panel Options 0
Appearance and Themes 1
Printers and Other Hardware 2
Network and Internet Connections 3
Sounds, Speed, and Audio Devices 4
Performance and Maintenance 5
Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options 6
Accessibility Options 7
Add or Remove Programs 8
User Accounts 9

2: Create a hidden user account

The user accounts you've set up appear on the Welcome screen when you start up the PC. To hide one of the user accounts so that it doesn't appear here, go to:

# HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon\SpecialAccounts\UserList

Right-click anywhere within the registry window and click New to create a new DWORD value with the name of the account to be hidden. Set the value to 0 (decimal). This account won't be accessible when switching users with Fast User Switching; you'll be able to access it only from the Log On To Windows dialog box. Keep in mind that it is not a totally hidden account; the account's profile will appear in the Documents And Settings folder. Also, the account appears in Local Users And Groups when an administrator is logged on.

3: Prevent programs from loading at startup

Remember back in the good old days of Windows 3.1 when you could open up the Win.ini file in a text editor and remove an item from the RUN= line to disable it from running at startup? With Windows 9x and above, the Win.ini file became less useful because 32-bit programs were set to run at startup from within the registry instead.

One way to selectively disable programs from loading at startup is to use MSCONFIG (from the Run command) to deselect certain items. Another way to remove them is to edit the registry directly. Consider the following locations:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

for applications that start up for all users

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

for applications that start up when the current user logs on

Remove the entry for a program by right-clicking it and selecting Delete to prevent it from loading.

4: Sort menus alphabetically

When you install a new program for a user, it doesn't find its place in the alphabetical Start menu hierarchy right away; it hangs out at the bottom for a little while. If your users employ the Classic Start menu, they can re-alphabetize it manually by right-clicking the taskbar and choosing Properties, clicking the Customize button next to the Classic Start Menu, and clicking the Sort button. With the Windows XP Start menu style, however, you don't have an equivalent button. To make Windows always alphabetize the list, remove the permissions from the registry key that controls the sort order for the Start menu. To do so, go to:

# HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MenuOrder

Choose Edit | Permissions and click the Advanced button. Deselect the Inherit From Parent The Permission Entries That Apply To Child Objects check box and then click Copy when the Security dialog box pops up. Click OK and clear the Full Control entry for your account and all security groups you are a member of. Leave only Read permission.

5: Change the desktop cleanup frequency

Through Display Properties (Desktop tab, Customize Desktop button, General tab), you can toggle a feature that runs the Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days. You don't have an option to set a different interval there, but you can change the interval in the registry. To do so, go to:

# HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Desktop\CleanupWiz

Change the Days Between Clean Up value to some other number of days (in decimal format).

6: Use desktop patterns

Windows XP provides no direct support for the Patterns feature that was present in earlier versions of Windows, but the feature is still there. It's just hidden in the registry. To enable a pattern, first set None as the background in Display Properties. Then, you need to find out the code for that pattern. To look up a code, go to:

# HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Patterns

A variety of patterns is listed, and each one has a Data value. Copy the value you want to the Clipboard. Then, go to:

# HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop

Add a string value called Pattern. Paste the string from the clipboard as its value. The new pattern will appear the next time you log on.

7: Delete the Files Stored On This Computer category in the My Computer window

In Windows XP, the My Computer window's listing is broken down by categories: Hard Disk Drives, Devices With Removable Storage, and so on. One of these categories is Files Stored On This Computer, which appears at the top of the My Computer window. If a user doesn't need it (and most folks don't), you can get rid of it. To do so, go to:

# HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\MyComputer\NameSpace\Delegate Folders

Delete the {59031a47-3f72-44a7-89c55595fe6b30ee} subkey to remove the category.

8: Erase the swap file at shutdown

You might be concerned about someone browsing your users' swap files and gathering up little bits of their sensitive data. A remote possibility, to be sure, but it could happen. For that extra measure of security, go to:

# HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management

Set the ClearPageFileAtShutdown DWORD to 1. This will make shutdowns take longer, because it overwrites everything in the swap file with zeroes. Don't turn this feature on unless you have a serious security threat.

9: Adjust System Restore values

The System Restore feature in Windows XP automatically backs up a snapshot of your system, including your registry, every 24 hours. It also saves restore points for 90 days. Neither of these values is directly editable in the System Restore program, but you can change them in the registry. Go to:

# HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\SystemRestore

You'll find an assortment of settings here. To change the interval between automatically created restore points, change the RPGlobalInterval setting. To change the number of days that a restore point is retained, change the RPLifeInterval setting.

System Restore time intervals are measured in seconds, not days, so you must convert the number of days you want into seconds. There are 86,400 seconds in a day, so multiply 86,400 by the number of days you want to determine the value. There are 3,600 seconds in an hour.

10: Create a right-click command prompt option

You can right-click a folder to get a list of actions you can apply to it. Here's a way to create an action on that right-click menu that opens a command prompt window with that folder as the current directory. In a text editor such as Notepad, type the following:

Windows registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Here]@="Command &Prompt Here"
[HKEY_CLASSES-ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Here\command]@="cmd.exe /k pushd %L"

Save the file with any name you want, with a .reg extension. Then, double-click the saved file and choose Yes to merge the file's information into the registry. You can delete the file. Right-click any folder and you'll see the CommandPrompt Here option.

48 comments
mc33
mc33

#10 should be "HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT" not "HKEY_CLASSES-ROOT"

alewisa
alewisa

#10 - results in "Cannot import c:\test.reg. The specified file is not a registry script. You can only import binary registry files from within the registry editor"... ?

markus315
markus315

Great tip Very Useful. Thanks

singh.sukhwinder4143
singh.sukhwinder4143

while using this option in windows sp3, "Create a right-click command prompt option" after adding key following error occurs "this file does not have a program associated with for perform this action. create an association in the folder option control panel" kindly suggest...

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

Most of these entries are equally true for users of Windows Vista. Use EXTREME CAUTION when editing the Registry, and ALWAYS create a Restore Point using System Restore before making any changes. Simply backing up the Registry using File>Export will not help you in a crash. Windows can only recover to a saved Restore Point. Creating a backup will, however, allow you to undo any changes you made accidentally - before you crash. #1: The Control Panel and how it is accessed and arranged has changed significantly from XP to Vista. For more details, including a list comparing the category codes for XP, Vixta, and Win 7, see http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc144183(v=VS.85).aspx and http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb757044.aspx #3: if you are not sure if the startup program is essential, use MSconfig to disable it. This gives you the easiest option of restoring it later. The entry will, however, still take up space in the registry, just in a different location. If you are certain it is not needed, you can then permanently remove it by re-enabling it in MSconfig, and then manually deleting it from either HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Run or HKCU/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Run. Some programs place an entry in the registries "Run folder" for such things as automatic updating, and if you delete the entry manually, the program could simply recreate it the next time you run it. For that reason, make sure you check for, and disable, any automatic settings that could be referencing the entry you want to delete. This is true in Vista as well, even if you have User Account Control on. #7: No longer used in Vista. #9: Vista defaults to a 24 hour interval between automatic restore points, and stores as many restore points as is possible in the space alotted. The default value for RPLifeInterval is 0xffffffff (maximum allowable value), which works out to somewhere around 134 years. #10: It is important to note that there is a Command Prompt right-click option available in Vista, but to access it, you have to hold down the shift key as you right click. For this reason, many users do not realise it even exists. This option is not available in XP, so the manual addition described in the article would be necessary. #2, #4, #5, #6, #8: I have not tested these yet in Windows Vista. There is a fantastic tool available from TweakNow that allows you to make many of these modifications and much more, and safely so you don't have to worry about damaging your registry. http://download.cnet.com/TweakNow-PowerPack-2010/3000-18512_4-10914508.html?tag=lia;rcol Cheers!

gordojd
gordojd

Ok, so I didn't see my favorite tip listed here and thought I would chime in. I find it very frustrating when supporting a user and I tell them to go to a specific drive letter (mapped network drive) and they say they can't see the drive letters. I have a registry hack that alters the way mapped drives are viewed in explorer and other progs. HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer If not already there, create a REG_DWORD value named ShowDriveLettersFirst and set its Value data to 4 Other options... 0-Show drive letters after description (default) 1-Show network drive letters before description, and local drive letters after description 2-No drive letter is displayed 4-Show drive letters before description BTW, This works on Vista. I think on Win7 too.

implodeme
implodeme

With the Windows XP style of Start menu, however, you don?t have an equivalent button. This can be achieved by right clicking any folder in the Start Menu > Programs. In the context menu there is an option to SORT BY NAME.

graham.moat
graham.moat

As an untrained technical novice with a 10 year old laptop running XP with major performance problems I'd appreciate guidance as to just how you get to # HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\MICROSOFT\WINDOWS\CURRENTVERSION\CONTROL PANEL\EXTENDED PROPERTIES\{305CA226-D286-468E-B848-2B2E8E697B74} 2 Assitance from anyone would be greatly appreciated. Many Thanks Moaty

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Ok. How about some Win7 reg fixes?

gstaggs
gstaggs

Some great suggestions and recommendations here. Thanks

educSCC
educSCC

Create a right-click command prompt option doesn't work for me. [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Here]@=?Command &Prompt Here? folder is created ok but default string value isn't modified or new 'command' sub folder isn't created. When I click on the context menue 'cmd here' I get error: This file does not have a program associated with it for performing this action. Create an association in the Folder Options control panel.

singh.sukhwinder4143
singh.sukhwinder4143

"this file does not have a program associated with it to perform this action. Create an association in the folder option control panel" This error i am receiving this error while right on the option " cmd here" on any folder.

singh.sukhwinder4143
singh.sukhwinder4143

Put this line on the top of file... Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

jraz
jraz

This must be at the top of the file. It is case sensitive. Works great after this edit. Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

Linn47
Linn47

Start> Run> type "Regedit", hit Enter. Collapse all the entries you see on the left, then you can navigate to the above key. (You can also type "regedt", but the former command has a search feature.) HOWEVER. You should always take anything you read online with a grain of salt, and unless you are very familiar with backing up/restoring the registry, then just leave well enough alone. If that above key is something to do with rearranging your control panel, it won't help your performance issues. You will just make it more difficult for some poor unsuspecting tech that might try to help you later on. Ayhow, after 10 years, your XP is probably long overdue for a nice fresh, clean install. :-)

mike.codding
mike.codding

from MS PowerToys for Windows, includes some for all Windows versions.

laurie.morris
laurie.morris

I agree! It's time to let go of XP folks so no more tweaks for it pleeease!

sebastien.lalonde
sebastien.lalonde

About the prompt command, the reg key must be write like this: Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Command Prompt] [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Command Prompt\command] @="cmd.exe /k pushd %L"

rONaRM
rONaRM

Yup. Pretty typical and happens a lot. I couldn't get it to work either, but for different reasons. I don't know why I waste time reading these things.

chriscampbellchr
chriscampbellchr

I don't at all unless I come across a cool fix or tweak.

imsoscareed
imsoscareed

How about some relavant up to date information instead of 8 year old materila that has posted over and over.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Though I try to stay out of the registry to the point of using utilities like tweakui rather than editing reg directly. I'm finding more settings that have to be imposed through registry hacks due to lacking Active Directory these days though. Granted, the latest Active Directory does a whole lot more and probably covers the settings I'm doing through .reg imports.

jck
jck

Used to be for when I had to do such things as a manual removal of Symantec or some other program that needed special attention.

mc33
mc33

Type the reg Exactly like this: Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Prompt Here] [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Prompt Here\command] @="cmd.exe /k pushd %1" There needs to be a return before the @="cmd.exe /k ...

singh.sukhwinder4143
singh.sukhwinder4143

i copy and paste following in notepad and renamed to cmd.reg Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Here]@="Command &Prompt Here" [HKEY_CLASSES-ROOT\Folder\shell\Cmd Here\command]@="cmd.exe /k pushd %L" still same problem.

komokozie
komokozie

(This may be slightly 'out of post', but is worth posting) In my almost 2 decades of working with Windows, I have seen sooooo many people want to try and 'fix' Windows' performance issues with Scanners and utilities they can find on the net, and/or try to tweak settings for optimum, or better performance. Now, I know I'm gonna get "t-hee hee's or Boooo's" with this statement, but Im gonna say it anyway: Albeit there is always room for improvement, XP really is a great OS!! Any of you folks that use '-free- from the internet' utilities or Registry 'fixers', or Scanners for Adware/Spyware... you also must to be aware, that with 98% those free 'apps' installed, comes 'really bad' stuff installed into the registry that you are/may not be aware of.. and this 'hidden from your eyes' stuff, can and does strongly perpetuate many problems! ALMOST NO ONE ever reads 'all' of the End User License Agreement(s) that comes with every piece of software or application you can install on a computer. (Many is the same thing with Wigets and Games and things from free Online Games sites.)(and that's on top of what all techs already know about with those {terrible for computers} such as gambling sites and certainly!! porn sites.) If you actually took the time to read fully (or even only the 1st 5 paragraphs) of only one of the EULA's on one of these 'free' apps, then I would venture to say..... it would/should scare the heck outta you!@@! and, it would enlighten you to the very devious and indepth ways these perpetrators make this 'free' software function and take over your computer .. slowly. (and, you cannot simply uninstall it.. the EULA tells you this ... 'if' you read it) ... Cuz it's all about the greenbacks ! (When you click 'Yes', 'Ok', or 'Continue'{to these free apps}, you then give them the power & authority to corrupt your Windows.) What you need to remember here is ...: (almost) Nothing is 'Free' on the 'Net!! .. You will pay for it one way or another ! Except for some places like the TR site and all, everything is based on money... even TR has ads all over their site to promote cash flow. It's a given. Hence, my point.. it's all about the dead Kennedys ($). My whole Post is about the Windows OS.. (believe it or not), and, that I very very STRONGLY agree with Linn47's last statement... "After 10 years, your XP is probably long overdue for a nice fresh, clean install." Ok, ok .... so maybe (hopefully) you're OS isn't actually 10 yrs old (hopefully!) ... But, a clean registry is the best friend(!!!) to any OS when it comes to performance.. It is 'much better' than an oil change for your car... It's just like 'a new motor' for your car. (please catch the metaphor) But it's true. Sooo much crap gets caught in the registry and slows it's performance.. that for the lay-man to suddenly become aware of, it can be shocking. Save your Data (I repeat.. save your data), and install a fresh OS (using 'fresh/clean' drivers from the mfrs sites for your hardware/system... and don't be stingy on these either.) !!Watch the Device Manager!! (Most drivers, if they don't belong to your system they won't install) You'll probably (assuming no 'hardware' issues) see a gigantic upgrade in performance. DON'T FORGET to do 'all' the Windows Service Packs & updates !!! Also remember to protect the system before you start running around the 'Net freely... Antivirus / Anti-Spyware/Adware / Pop-Up Stoppers ... Actually these 3 ingredients can do wonders to keeping your system healthy. It's obvious with the AV's & the ASA's, but what alot of peeps tend to forget is the Pop-Up Stopper. (Panicware has a great 'free' one that does not corrupt your system as I've talked about.) Pop-up windows (ads that 'pop' onto the screen {in a smaller window} without notice) are synonomous with installing crap/dirt into the system, and every single one ads more & more to the registry. What 'you' see is the ad, -- The 'OS sees' code (installed in the background) that tells it to call for more and more (albeit slowly), but it all keeps adding up. PROTECT YOUR SYSTEM! Enjoy your renewed, faster system !

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

Not everyone can afford the M$ upgrade treadmill, which includes new hardware which I ain't buying because the systems I have still run and because my Dell Dimension L433c & L500cx won't run Vi$ta or 7 and I wouldn't even attempt to install XP on these, but they make great cheap email / surf systems & even file servers when setup with $30 e-SATA cards My Dimension 4100 P3 & Super Micro Dual socket P3 server systems won't run Vi$ta or 7 either I wouldn't try XP on them either, my Compaq Presario 6330ca P4 runs XP just fine and so does my custom built Core2Duo, but I wouldn't try to install Vi$ta or 7 and I'm only planning on building one more system: a Dual Socket dual Quad core Xeon with XP-64 (which will still run all my current apps. which vi$ta / 7 will not)

gaucho_mail
gaucho_mail

Press the shift key and simultaneusly right-click on the folder icon, the menu will show "Command prompt here" , select this and the commnad panel will appear.

Linn47
Linn47

LOL. Now I have to go back in and clean up all the stuff I so indiscriminately sprinkled into my registry.

markh
markh

Many thanks. This is going to be quite a useful feature. Now if only I can remember how it was done when my colleagues ask me...

cabanks
cabanks

I used the revised script and this command still does not work. Any more suggestions?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Thank you for this reply - if you have a Windows XP tip that has never been published on TechRepublic, I will pay you $300 for it. Now, the ball is in your court - show me what you got. As for new material, we publish tips on Windows 7 several times a week.

Linn47
Linn47

I get the "Cmd Here" or "Command Prompt Here" with every one of those registry hacks. But clicking on it only yields various error messages. It's easier to do it the old fashioned way.

mahony11
mahony11

If you modify the registry, it is a good idea to add it to 'favorites', giving it an explanatory name and a date.

andrew
andrew

- all I have to do now is to go in to the registry and remove the "cmd here" that doesn't work - at least I know where to find it...

1eyed
1eyed

If one of these doesn't work then the other one will: ------------------------------------------- Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Prompt] @="Command Prompt Here" [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Prompt\command] @="%systemroot%\\system32\\cmd.exe /k \"cd %L\"" ------------------------------------------- or ------------------------------------------- Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Prompt] @="Command Prompt Here" [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Folder\shell\Command Prompt\command] @="cmd.exe /k \"cd %L\""

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I am happy to see some attempts at new Windows XP tips. I think all three have the nugget of a potential winning tip. Since I am getting some response, I want to lay out a few parameters. I am willing to pay $300 for a fully developed tip that I can publish in the Windows blog. That means you should write an introduction stating what the tip does and why one would want to use it. Then you should write the exact repeatable steps that make the tip work. And there is no "winner" here - any Windows XP tip that makes the grade will earn the $300. Before you do the work, I would suggest you search your topic on TechRepublic to make sure we have not covered it before. I look forward to seeing your entries.

Cmd_Line_Dino
Cmd_Line_Dino

A large scroll back buffer is very useful in a CMD.EXE window. Right click the title bar, choose properties then Layout (tab). The Screen Buffer Size - Height can be set to a maximum of 9999 lines. That's pretty good but it can be set higher. The Tip: In the CMD window use the MODE command to set it as high as 32766 lines. mode con lines=32766 I prefer to be a bit conservative and use mode con lines=32300 I have used this on Windows XP for years. Works on Windows 7 too. So is that a new Windows XP tip ?

blacksmithforlife
blacksmithforlife

He told me a great tip, when changing a setting(say in outlook) that you know is writing a registry value but you have no idea where, export the registry before you change the setting, and then export it again after you have changed the setting. Then use a program(we use workshare) to compare the two documents. Workshare does a great job(even though it is slow) and even highlights and underlines the changes in the documents. Great for finding what changed even when you have no idea where to look.

FatNGristle
FatNGristle

This is basic, but I've not seen it here, but XP has 2 command interpreters, 'command.com' and 'CMD.exe' They don't handle all commands equally, even commands of the same name. For instance, 'CD' for change directory in COMMAND.COM will not allow switches, whereas CMD.EXE has the '/d' switch for specifying the whole path. I suspect this indicates CMD.EXE to be the latter code, but oddly it has an older copywrite. Besides, I'll gladly say something stupid for money that I was thinking anyway for free.

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